Massachusetts officials released updated mask guidance Friday for fully vaccinated people and students. Here's what you need to know:
Guidance for vaccinated individuals
Fully vaccinated people in Massachusetts are now recommended to wear face masks in public, indoor settings under certain conditions.
The Massachusetts Department of Public Health's new guidance recommends that "a fully vaccinated person wear a mask or face covering when indoors (and not in your own home)" if they or someone in their house has a weakened immune system or is at risk of severe disease, or if someone in their home is unvaccinated.
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Gov. Charlie Baker tweeted about the new guidance from the Department of Public Health, stressing that the change is meant "to maximize protection of vulnerable individuals."
"We will continue to double down to protect those who are most at risk here in Massachusetts, and today's guidance is another way we can work together to stay healthy and safe," Baker said Friday.
Several Massachusetts counties have high enough COVID transmission that the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are recommending that vaccinated people wear masks indoors: Barnstable, Bristol, Nantucket and Suffolk.
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A COVID outbreak on Cape Cod has been tied to hundreds of cases, and helped the CDC decide to issue its new mask recommendations for vaccinated people.
Guidance for K-6 students
- This fall, DESE and DPH strongly recommend that all students in kindergarten through grade 6 wear masks when indoors, except students who cannot do so due to medical conditions or behavioral needs. Masks are not necessary outdoors and may be removed while eating indoors.
- DESE and DPH also strongly recommend that unvaccinated staff in all grades, unvaccinated students in grades 7 and above, and unvaccinated visitors wear masks indoors, in alignment with the statewide advisory on masking.
- DESE and DPH recommend that schools allow vaccinated students to remain unmasked.
- Any individual at higher risk for severe disease from COVID or with a household member who is at high risk is encouraged to mask regardless of vaccination status consistent with the updated DPH Advisory on Face Coverings and Masks.
- Any child or family who prefers to mask at school should be supported in this choice.
- By federal public health order, all students and staff are required to wear masks on school buses at this time.
According to DESE, the guidance is a recommendation for districts, and "individual districts should make decisions based on their own particular circumstances."
All Massachusetts school districts will be required to be in-person on a full-time basis in the fall, according to the department. The guidance released Friday will replace previous COVID-19 requirements.
"All schools and all districts must be open every day to every student, no matter what," Baker said Friday. "The documented negative impact on children that resulted from the uneven, unpredictable and profoundly difficult year that students had last year cannot and must not happen again. In-person learning is the only available option for Massachusetts schools and their students, and hopefully today's guidance will help local officials finish their preparations as they get ready to welcome back their students in the fall."
The new guidance comes amid rising COVID-19 cases in Massachusetts and across the country as the highly-contagious delta variant proliferates. Massachusetts health officials reported another 844 confirmed coronavirus cases -- the most in a single day since early May -- and three new deaths on Friday.